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It took six rings of the phone to reach a corner of her sleeping brain. By the eighth, she managed to slide a hand out from under the blankets. She smacked the alarm clock first and slammed the cheery face of Kermit the Frog to the floor. It was the third dead Kermit that year.
Her long, unadorned fingers patted along the glossy surface of the walnut nightstand, finally gripped the receiver and pulled it under the covers with her.
"It rang ten times."
With the blankets over her head, Laura MacGregor winced at the booming accusation, then yawned. "Did?"
"Ten times. One more ring and I'd have been calling 911. I was seeing you lying in a pool of blood."
"Bed," she managed, and snuggled into the pillow. "Sleeping. Good night."
"It's nearly eight o'clock."
"In the morning." He'd identified the voice now, knew which one of his granddaughters was burrowed in bed at what Daniel MacGregor considered the middle of the day. "A fine, bright September morning. You should be up enjoying it, little girl, instead of sleeping it away."
He huffed. "Life's passing you by, Laura. Your grandmother's worried about you. Why, she was just saying last night how she could barely get a moment's peace of mind, worrying about her oldest granddaughter."
Anna had said nothing of the kind, but the ploy of using his wife to finagle his family into doing what he wanted them to do was an old habit. The MacGregor appreciated traditions.
"'S fine. Everything. Dandy. Sleeping now, Grandpa."
"Well, get up. You haven't visited your grandmother for weeks. She's pining. Just because you think you're a grown-up woman of twenty-four doesn't mean you should forget your dear old granny."
He winced at that a bit himself and glanced toward the door to make certain it was firmly shut. If Anna heard him refer to her as a dear old granny, she'd scalp him.
"Come up for the weekend," he demanded. "Bring your cousins."
"Got a brief to read," she muttered, and started drifting off again. "But soon."
"Make it sooner. We're not going to live forever, you know."
"Yes, you are."
"Hah. I've sent you a present. It'll be there this morning. So get yourself out of bed and prettied up. Wear a dress."
"Okay, sure. Thanks, Grandpa. Bye." Laura dumped the receiver on the floor, burrowed under the pillow and slid blissfully back into sleep.
Twenty minutes later she was rudely awakened with a shake and a curse. "Damn it, Laura, you did it again."
"What?" She shot up in bed, dark eyes wide and glazed, black hair tangled. "What?"
"Left the phone off the hook." Julia MacGregor fisted her hands on her hips and smoldered. "I was expecting a call."
" Her mind was an unfocused blur. Laura shoved her hands through her sleep-tousled hair, as if to clear it. Mornings were just not her time of day. "I think Grandpa called. Maybe. I can't remember."
"I didn't hear the phone." Julia shrugged. "I guess I was in the shower. Gwen's already left for the hospital. What did Grandpa want?" When Laura continued to look blank, Julia laughed and sat on the edge of the bed. "Probably just the usual. 'Your grandmother's worried about you.'"
"I seem to remember something about that." Smiling a little, Laura plopped back onto the pillows. "If you'd gotten out of the shower faster, you'd have caught the call. Then Grandma would have been worried about you."
"She was worried about me last week." Julia checked her antique marcasite watch. "I've got to run look at this property in Brookline."
"Another one? Didn't you just buy another house last month?"
"It was two months ago, and it's nearly ready to turn over." Julia shook back her curling mane of flame-colored hair. "Time for a new project."
"Whatever works for you. My big plan was to sleep until noon, then spend the rest of the afternoon on a brief." Laura rolled her shoulders. "Fat chance around here."
"You'll have the place to yourself for the next few hours. Gwen has a double shift at the hospital, and I don't expect to be back until five."
"It's not my night to cook."
"I'll pick something up."
"Pizza," Laura said immediately. "Double cheese and black olives."
"It's never too early for you to think about dinner." Julia rose, smoothed down the moss-green jacket she wore over pleated trousers. "See you tonight," she called on her way out. "And don't leave the phone off the hook."